There were multiple reports of the Washington Nationals’ rumored interest in signing free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson before today, especially once Anthony Rendon’s 7-year/$245M deal with the Los Angeles Angels was officially announced, but earlier this morning, after he helped to welcome Stephen Strasburg back following the pitcher’s short dalliance with the free agent market, GM Mike Rizzo acknowledged that Donaldson is in fact a target.
“We have interest in Josh Donaldson,” Rizzo said, as quoted on MLB.com.
“We’re in conversations with a lot of different people and [there are] a lot of moving parts, and he’s one of them.”
Those comments came after reports the last few days which said the Nationals were making a strong effort to get Donaldson signed.
On the Donaldson market: #Dodgers still in, but teams in bidding fear #Nationals will go big on either a four-year deal or three-year contract with a high AAV. A four-year deal would extend through Donaldson’s age 37 season.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 17, 2019
Nats remain focused on Donaldson. Rangers, Dodgers and Twins still interested but feels like potential NL East battle with incumbent Braves. Nats backup 3B plans: Bryant, Seager, Franco and their own Kieboom. Also looking at 2Bs.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 17, 2019
Previous reports this week said that the Nationals were willing to go high as 4-years/$90M to get Donaldson to D.C. as a replacement for Rendon, as they try to fill roster holes at both third and second base this winter.
Carter Kieboom, the top prospect in the organization and an option at both positions if the club doesn’t acquire one at each, could end up playing third or second base this season, or they could turn to one of the other players mentioned above, like Kris Bryant, Kyle Seager, or Maikel Franco.
“I think he’s very, very close to Major League ready,” Rizzo told reporters today, as quoted on MLB.com.
“If I feel he’s ready to make the club -- and make an impact on the club -- he’ll certainly get an opportunity.”
While the Nationals were re-introducing Strasburg, who agreed on his own 7-year/$245M deal, MLB Network analyst Jon Heyman wrote on Twitter the club is interested in bringing another member of the 2019 bullpen back as well.
Nats also hoping to bring back Daniel Hudson, who saved their pen last year (and recorded the final out). Apart on price at moment, but clearly want him.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 17, 2019
The Nationals’ bullpen last season was a serious issue, and the Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office are reportedly trying to rebuild the relief corps as they prepare for the 2020 campaign.
“Obviously we have [Sean] Doolittle,” manager Davey Martinez said at the Winter Meetings.
“I like what [Tanner Rainey] did towards the end of the year. He grew a lot and matured a lot.
“You have [Wander] Suero, who I think did a great job. His ERA doesn’t say that, but he pitched a lot of innings for us, pitched some big innings for us.
“We’ve got [Hunter] Strickland, [Roenis] Elías back. What I would like is hopefully we can find a few “back end of the bullpen” guys to complement Doolittle.”
The Nationals did sign reliever and they signed reliever Kyle Finnegan to a major league deal earlier this month, but they’re not done adding arms to the ‘pen just yet.
Looking at the market, Rizzo said there were plenty of options out there as the Nationals try to bolster their bullpen.
“There [are a] bunch of different ways to construct a roster,” Rizzo said, as quoted by NBC Sports Washington.
“We feel that we have great options both internally and in the free-agent market and in the trade market.
“So we will explore those like we do every year and try to construct a team that Washington can be proud of and gives us a chance to win another World Series.”
While they have interest in bringing Hudson back, Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty wrote on Twitter today that there are some obstacles they’ll have to overcome:
The Nationals are interested in bringing Daniel Hudson back. The hang up to this point has been length of deal. Hudson + his representation are looking for a multi-year contract. Washington likes to keep 30+-year-old relievers to one year.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) December 17, 2019
More on Daniel Hudson’s developing market: Nationals seem hesitant to extend too far on a multi-year deal with big guarantee, but could go beyond one year. Hudson appears to have a few multi-year deals from other clubs ... (continued)— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) December 17, 2019
... and his preference is to stay in Washington. But that obviously becomes more difficult if there’s a large gap between the Nationals’ offer and ones from other teams.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) December 17, 2019
Will the Nationals land Donaldson? Will they bring Hudson back? Where will they turn if the interest doesn’t result in deals with the free agents?